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Bentley reveals Cayenne rival

2012-03-06 09:39

A FIRST FOR BENTLEY: Bentley's SUV concept will be a first for the luxury automaker. Gallery!

GENEVA, Switzerland - Bentley has set its sights on the SUV market with its radical EXP 9 F concept unveiled today at the Geneva auto show.

Bentley says the inspiration came from the Grand Touring Bentley and the automaker hopes to create a vehicle suited for a sophisticated gala or for blasting across sand dunes.

Though the EXP 9 F concept is built around Bentley's six-litre, twin-turbo, W12 engine and an eight-speed auto, the company’s four-litre twin-turbo V8 or a hybrid drive train could power the new SUV.

The six-litre could, Bentley says, develop 447kW and 800Nm, which would certainly set a blistering 0-100km time - at least for an SUV.

HOMAGE TO BLOWN BENTLEYS

The SUV concept has three driving modes, comfort, sport and off-road, the last of which has a "sump cam" for negotiating difficult terrain.

Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley, said at the launch: “We're very excited by the potential of a high performance, ultra-luxury Bentley SUV. We know many Bentley customers already own an SUV and have admiration for their style, luxury, performance and versatility.

"With the EXP 9 F, Bentley is making a clear statement of intent that we have both the expertise and desire to meet and exceed their expectations."

From a designer’s perspective, the EXP 9 F was the chance to create a completely new type of Bentley, as Dirk van Braeckel, Bentley's director of design, explains: “The EXP 9 F had to represent the absolute pinnacle of the sport utility sector, to set a benchmark. The style had to reflect Bentley’s sporting character, despite its radically different package and purpose, together with sculptured, flowing surfaces in keeping with the Bentley tradition."

HOMAGE TO BLOWN BENTLEYS

The EXP 9 F is a hat tip to the classic supercharged Bentleys from the 1920's in that it's not just a stylish car but also shows "visible engineering"; Bentley cites its daytime running light apertures that are also air intakes for the twin-turbo W12.

The "turbine theme" continues with its 23" alloy rims while the centrally mounted wheel nut is reminiscent to the automaker's Le Mans racers of the 1920's. At the rear a split hatch suggests practicality. The rear also shows rifled twin exhaust pipes that match the elliptical rear light clusters.

Quality and craftsmanship typical of Bentley continue throughout the cabin; Van Braeckel says the EXP 9 F combines luxury with the utility needed in an SUV.

“The challenge for the interior design team was to create a cabin which provides a blend of luxury and utility," he said. "The result is a light and airy environment with a commanding view of the road and a versatile layout which showcases Bentley’s craft and design language in an innovative and contemporary way.”

Bentley EXP 9 F

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE: Bentley hopes to attract a Land Rover-esque breed of customer as its luxury SUV has picnic equipment, a table and 'brollies' for all your outdoor needs. Better hope you don't dirty your luxury floor mats...

Soft leather is used throughout the cabin though Bentley is experimenting with saddle leather for the seat backs and floors. The dash instrumentation is virtual.

Bentley has avoided pure luxury as the EXP 9 F has durable surfaces throughout the interior, even the silk floor mats are reversible, one side finished in saddle leather for use when drivers brave the outdoors.

The EXP 9 F will seat five though ideally you'd want two rear passengers as the rear armrest can be lifted to reveal a fridge. When the rear seats are not in use they can be powered forward to create more boot space.

Rear passengers can chose business mode (generous legroom and access to a fold-down keyboard and iPad/tablet) or a more reclined position with powered footrest, drinks table and an infotainment screen.

The lower section of the split rear door can drop to become a picnic table; hampers are stowed on each side of the boot. An extendable awning will keep off the sun, a pair of umbrellas the rain.

Bentley will gauge customer and public reaction to the  EXP 9 F during the Geneva show.

Alasdair Stewart, Bentley's board member for sales and marketing, said: “A Bentley Grand Tourer doesn’t have to be a coupé, a convertible or a saloon – it could equally well be an SUV. What’s important is that it should be true to Bentley’s brand values and in line with the desires and needs of our customers.”

Read more reports about the 2012 Geneva auto show.
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